Standing about 5 feet tall, give or take the thickness of a phone book, Blue Springs South junior forward Emily Griffin oftentimes is the shortest player on the soccer field.
But just as often few players have as large an impact on the game, the latest exhibit coming Tuesday at Blue Springs’ Peve Stadium.
Griffin scored both of South’s goals, including the game-winner with 3:22 remaining, as the Jaguars upended the host Wildcats 2-1 in a Suburban Big Six crosstown grudge match.
A run up the right side produced a Jaguar corner kick that Nina Stine took. The initial shot was knocked down, but South’s Mollie Maupin settled and flipped the ball back to Griffin, who unleashed a 25-yard rocket that found the upper right corner past leaping Blue Springs goalkeeper Lindsey Davis, ultimately lifting South’s record to 5-2 overall and 2-1 in the Big Six.
“About three shots went off; we just had to get something in,” said Griffin, who now has 11 goals this season. “Mollie Maupin passed it right back.”
In a constant back-and-forth game full of runs and counter-attacks – a track meet, as South coach Todd Findley put it – Blue Springs (6-2, 1-2) clearly had more scoring threats, but the Jaguars simply converted one more chance than the Wildcats.
Blue Springs outshot South 16-10, including 7-4 on goal, and had a 7-4 advantage in corner kicks, including six in the first half.
“Their girl got two chances and she put both away,” Blue Springs coach Doug McLagan said. “The first half we had a lot more (chances).”
“I’m not saying we have to put away every chance. We hit the crossbar, and the rebound could’ve gone in.”
The crossbar deflection came on a Morgan Hensley shot in the 56th minute, and off the rebound Gabi Severns’ managed an attempt in traffic that rolled just wide. Two minutes earlier Severns had a goal waved off for being offside.
Griffin’s first goal came in the 25th minute, after Stine sent a ball in from the right corner, Abbey Widick kept her balance enough to settle and find Griffin behind her for a rope inside the left post.
“That was an amazing ball by both of them,” Griffin said.
“Abbey did a fantastic job on that,” South coach Todd Findley added. “Just so unselfish to give that little pass back for Emily to just rip it. A lot of credit goes to her.”
Stine nearly made it 2-0 in the 29th but Marissa Moore kicked away a non-goalie save, and Blue Springs soon countered for the equalizer. Morgan Hensley sent a ball from the right wing into the box, where Shilah Rainey made a neat deflection with a defender on her back.
Megan Swanson, South’s freshman goalkeeper, had no chance on Rainey’s shot, but she made six saves and snared several other balls at the goalmouth.
“Megan had a great game,” McLagan said. “She was solid, no question about it.”
Findley said it was like a chess match trying to stave off the Wildcats and counter-attack.
“Coach McLagan does just a tremendous job with their attacking style,” he said. “I was really confident in our defenders, Swanson in goal and our midfielders. I knew if you could hold off their runs, we could get some looks with our forwards up top.
“They play so fast, such good transition soccer, that the best way to play them is to counter back.”
Blue Springs South's junior varsity won 8-0.